Traveling to Burning Man with Kids

We are in the midst of a “Round World Trip” with our two teenage boys. A primary goal of the trip is to introduce our boys to difference cultures and show them the diversity of human experience in the world. As anyone who has been to Burning Man will tell you, Burning Man is a cultural and sensory experience unlike any other.

Each year a city of 60,000 plus inhabitants comes into existence and then a few weeks later disappears. The Burning Man organization has developed 10 principals which I have listed below , along with our thoughts on how they relate to taking our kids to Black Rock City (The name of the burning man city in the desert) and around the world.

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

We hope to raise young men who welcome and respect others, even those that might have different political views, cultural baggage, or religious beliefs. At Burning Man there were ample opportunities to point out that someone’s beliefs might be different from ours. This will no doubt be a recurring theme over the coming year.

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

The amount of research that supports the hypothesis that giving is a far better source of happiness than the collection of material goods is staggering, and yet our society/culture pushes kids in the opposite direction. In our past adventures we have often been the recipient of gifts (whether a ride, the offer of a meal, or a seat on a train) and the boys fully embrace this principal at Burning Man and beyond.

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.

International travel opens one’s eyes to the advertising that is all around us, because it is different in other countries. Our boys get a kick out of how products are pitched in different places.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

This was a theme at Burning Man, and will remain with us throughout the year. Living out of four backpacks with long train rides, flights, jet lag, big cities, cramped quarters, language barriers, and a tight budget will reinforce the important of individual and family sized self-reliance every day.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual.

As any parent of a teenager will tell you, self-expression is typically not a problem. We are hoping to channel some of their self-expression into drawing, writing, and photography.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration.

We arrived at Burning Man two days before the “gate opened” to help build Kidsville, the neighborhood within the city where you must have kids with you to camp. It was a communal center of families and our boys loved their role in helping build it (even during the blinding sandstorms.)

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society.

A few years ago we found ourselves in the middle of a civil protest through downtown Madrid. We were amongst thousands of Spaniards who were marching to protest the financial hardships of the middle class from what they considered a corrupt political system. While we paid close attention to our safety, and in what direction to head if the protesters or the police became violent, we were afforded an amazing hour of experiencing civil disobedience as a form of protest. That led into a conversation with the boys about the concepts of civil society that ran well into the night hours after we had left the protesters to sit in a late night restaurant and review the experience.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

This principal speaks for itself and is one that our boys (and their peers) seem to be taught in school from an early age.

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play.

As I recently said to a friend, our boys over the last two months have moved from being passengers on our “ship” to members of the crew. On some days there is a measurable lack of enthusiasm about participating (doing laundry being an example) but for the most part they understand that this is a team effort and it takes all four of us to get it done, whether the task is fun (a hike) or a pain (packing and getting through an airport.)

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture.

Traveling for 12 months through 9 states in the United States and 25 countries around the world is certainly a set up for immediacy—every day.

A Youth Burn (Burning Man) ~Bryce

Burning man

We arrived in the dust. It blew. The wind howled, and the trucks kicked up more dust than I could with an army of men. I was excited, nervous, and ready to experience whatever the hell was about to happen. I had no information, and little did I know that this would be the best week of the year.

Gate took at least six hours. We moved from station to station, becoming two lines out of six. Mom and Colin played cards, whilst Dad and I looked outside and played Briscola, an Italian card game. Sometimes Dad had to pause the card games and get up to drive forward. And when the dust blew by we all had to jump up and close the open windows. (We usually kept one side of our bus open in order to let air in, but the dust out.)

After gate, Dad drove the bus down to Kidsville, which was on the corner of 5:30 and E. We parked our bus a little bit off the street but not perfectly. We talked to our friends and asked them where we should camp. Soon another group arrived and asked us to move our bus over so they could fit in their camping spot. We agreed, and dad got back inside to shift our position. This new group consisted of a family from Colorado and their friends. I helped set up their camp as well as ours. That night I got out my mixer and mixed some sweet tunes.

During my week at Black Rock City I had a wonderful time. I danced, walked, and biked my way around the streets and blocks of the city. I made friends and we walked together, which was nice. Unfortunately, as all good things must, the week came to a close.

On the last night that everyone was in the city the man burned. We spent the whole day freezing as the wind blew, kicking up dust. It really was cold. The wind bit, and the dust floated from one end of the city to the other. We, my group of friends, walked down to the center of the city where we sat on blankets. Waiting with baited breath the entire population of Black Rock City sat and watched as the man, standing motionless, watched over the city. The wood was golden brown and he shot 50 meters out of the desert. With a sudden movement the arms of the man swung up and touched the sky. There was a collective gasp.

SHHHHHHH, BOOOM! Fireworks! Cheering and clapping, the playa burst into sound, voices cried over the thumping music of the art-cars, no one voice could be pulled out of the din.

With a flash, the fire was lit. And, boy, did it burn. It started small, but as the fire got bigger it started to melt the wire supports holding the arms suspended above the man. With no warning they snapped and the arms fell, one at a time, more screaming and cheering ensued. It burned for quite a spell before the all the outer wood had fallen and just the frame remained. It stood tall and proud before it fell. The man creaked and shuddered. Then, it fell. There was a large smash as it impacted the ground, ash flew up into the air, the giant columns of smoke and spark grew in size as the trapped air and fire was suddenly released.

“Heads up!” This was the occasional cry from the audience as large pieces of flaming wood fell from the sky, into the crowd. Cheering and dancing the crowd started to disperse past the perimeter of art-cars and fire throwers, the pile of wood and fire that once stood proud over The City smoldered in the background.

A kid in Burning Man (it is awesome)

One of the main reasons that I enjoyed Burning Man was the friends that shared the experience with me.  This year was the dustiest Burning man in a long time.  The best bit was the actual burns, the ginormous man and the temple that they build every year for the experience.  Burning Man was one of the best experiences on this trip so far.

My friends from school, Gus and Joe, camped with us and we went to the burns, played poker, and set up the camp together.  They had been going for four years so they knew a lot and showed us around the city. The big reason why it was so fun was because of the friends we made.  We hung out with Landon, Carson, Mickey, and Marty on the trampolines.

My brother hung out with kids more his age, Hope, Arri, Forrest, Will, and Meghan were some of his best friends. He actually met his girlfriend Hope at burning man.  Having friends that were more experienced was really helpful.  They took him dancing a lot.

The dust was bad. The first day was a 15 hour dust storm. It was crazy, you couldn’t see five feet in front of you. The whiteout lasted for 12 hours and it was moderate for the rest of the storm. To go outside we had to  wear goggles and masks to protect our eyes and our throats.   The next storm lasted four hours, it wasn’t that bad. My dad and I watched sky divers get blown off course because of one.

The burns were amazing. The energy before the burns was great, every one was excited for them but sad because it marked the end of the week. The Man had a whole show and burned for 45 minutes before it fell. He was 60 feet tall. The temple had no show but was more spectacular than the man, it fell after 7 minutes but everyone stayed for the perimeter break. We have a temple for other burners to make shrines for lost loved ones. They were the whole point of the place and marked the end, it was a bittersweet occasion.

Burning Man would have been dull without the friends that I made there and those that I already had.  This year was very, incredibly dusty.  I had the most fun at  the actual burns both the man and the temple, they were amazing but a little bit sad.   Burning Man was one of the best experiences on this trip so far.

Getting Ready to Head to Burning Man

Welcome to our blog, it isn’t actually live yet (hopefully in the next few weeks.) But in the meantime, a quick update of where we are and where we are headed.

We have traveled from Northern California, down to Arizona, up through Utah and over to Nevada.

We are in Sparks at the moment preparing the bus for our trip out onto the “Playa” for Burning man.